The Lion comes wooing

<b>In high spirit of Sabah's economy</b>: Chief minister Musa Aman and Singapore's foreign affairs minister George Yeo (right) look to more trade ties.

Singapore wants more economic and tourism ties with Sabah

Singapore, buoyed by expectations that its economy may grow faster next year, has set sight on Sabah to expand its trade and investments. It is attracted to the east Malaysian state’s economic resilience, frenetic multi-billion-ringgit development and political stability despite a global downturn. Sabah’s economy is growing at 3.6% although Malaysia suffered a technical recession in the first half of this year. The state’s GDP growth is expected at about 4.5% next year. Singapore’s is to grow at 5.5%.

<b>A future mega port city</b>: Darvel Bay in Lahad Datu.Last week George Yeo, Singapore’s foreign affairs minister, spent three days in Kota Kinabalu meeting chief minister Musa Aman and other Sabah ministers to explore economic opportunities in the north Borneo island state. Of interest to Singapore are the Sabah Development Corridor (SDC) and the development of the east coast town of Lahad Datu into a mega port city hailed as the “Rotterdam of the East”.

Such an acclaim, of course, does not worry Singapore which is the world’s biggest port, pipping Shanghai by a hairline in cargo tonnage handling. Rotterdam is only the sixth busiest. But Lahad Datu’s development as a palm oil industrial cluster (POIC) may be a cost-efficient base for Singaporean companies developing their bio-fuel industries to feed the world’s demand for green energy.

Despite big carbon emission cuts next year by the European Union that will dent palm bio-diesel feedstock exports, Singapore is optimistic of palm oil’s future, both as edible oil and as bio-fuel. Palm oil, most widely used in the world, is cheaper to produce and sell; and it requires less land when compared to soya bean and rapeseed. What palm oil producers need to do is to convince the world that clearing of rainforests and peat to grow oil palms does not raise C02 emissions, displace indigenous people and destroy wildlife.

Singaporean companies have vast oil palm estates in Indonesia’s Kalimantan province that borders Sabah. Much of the plantation yields there are expected to feed mills and bio-diesel plants in Lahad Datu which will have container port facilities to ship cargoes to all over the world.

<b>Palm oil plant in Lahad Datu</b>: "Rotterdam of the East".According to the Singapore foreign affairs ministry, Mr Yeo and Mr Musa discussed ways “to expand economic linkages between Singapore and Sabah.” Details of their discussions are not available but the ministry said that Mr Musa briefed Mr Yeo on Sabah’s economic opportunities and priorities, and forest conservation.

Mr Yeo has invited Mr Musa to Singapore to “further develop economic and tourism ties between Singapore and Sabah,” the ministry said.

State officials said Singaporean interests in Sabah had grown tremendously. Singapore is the fourth largest investor in Sabah behind the Netherlands, Australia and Japan. Singaporean tourists have also doubled for the first nine months of this year to 28,372, according to Masidi Manjun, minister for tourism, culture and environment. There are 31 weekly flights between Singapore and Kota Kinabalu served by Singapore Airlines, Silk Air, Tiger Airways, Jetstar, Malaysia Airlines and Air Asia.

Singaporeans are also interested in the Sabah Development Corridor which will turn the state into a gateway for trade, investment and tourism. So far local and foreign investors have invested 4 billion ringgit ($1.2 billion) in the SDC. “Another 20 billion ringgit is planned,” Mr Musa said. The SDC expects 105 billion ringgit of investment over 18 years. It will provide 900,000 jobs for Sabahans.

Besides palm oil based industries, Singaporeans are interested to invest in tourism, food, petrochemical, health care, pharmaceuticals and property development, according to industry sources.

Officials say Singapore’s overture augurs well for Sabah as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) expects the world economy to rebound next year. According to its World Economic Outlook, global output led by Asian economies, is expected to grow at 3.1%. – Insight Sabah


Related stories:

Palm oil fuels mega port city ambitions

Sabah booms amid a global recession

Big spending, rich goals


Posted on December 15, 2009

Malay 中文
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  • curiousity

    By kristy on 15-12-2009 03:59 pm

    Just a little bit curious here. Why are there some articles come with writers' or reporters' name, but some don't? I think you have to be consistent

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